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Today's Tidbit... 1888 and 1889 Wesleyan Football and A Future President
Although Wesleyan football now plays at the Division III level and is best known for former players and NFL coaches Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini, it once played at the highest level of the sport as an early member of the Intercollegiate Football Association (IFA). More accurately, Wesleyan played with teams at the highest level of the sport since they had only a handful of wins over fellow IFA members (Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Penn).
Wesleyan’s 1888 team went 2-7 with wins over Amherst and Worchester Tech while losing to Penn 18-6, Harvard 34-0 and 50-2, and Princeton 44-0. In addition, they played Yale three times, losing 76-0, 46-0, and 105-0 when Yale went 13-0, outscoring its opponents 694-0. The state of the football program's competitiveness was reflected by the cartoon from the school yearbook showing the relative strength of the conference programs, with Wesleyan tailing the others.
The 1889 team performed better, going 4-1 outside the association. They split their games with Trinity, gained wins over Amherst, Rutgers, and Williams, and tied Lehigh. However, their IFA season was similar to that of 1888, losing to Yale 38-0, 63-5, and 52-0, while also tasting defeat at the hands of Harvard by 64-0 and 67-2 scores. Princeton beat them 98-0, but the season's highlight came at the end when they beat Penn 18-6.
At the time, people close to the program suggested the improvement from 1888 to 1889 resulted from the efforts of the first member of their Advisory Board listed below, who picked up his football knowledge as the student manager of Princeton's team during his undergraduate days.
And yes, Professor Woodrow Wilson, listed on the Advisory Board, later became the President of Princeton University and the United States.
Wilson is one of three former college football coaches who became the U.S. President. You can read about them and other U.S. presidents' connections to football here.
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